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Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer

John Smith, the protagonist of Sherman Alexie's novel Indian Killer, is a man caught between the white world and the Indian world, and at home in neither. He is a full-blooded Native American Indian, but was raised by whites, and knows little about his Indian roots. As a result of these circumstances, and the fact that he is a man who appears to be an Indian in a nation of prejudice against Indians, he is a man without an identity. With respect to the issue of intolerance, one could say that John has become a man without the capacity for tolerance at all, including tolerance for himself and his confusing situation in life. In other words, he has been shaped by an unforgiving and intolerant culture which does its worst in creating human beings who are such victims of intolerance that they practically do not even exist. They have been made invisible by intolerance. In fact, John is certainly mentally ill to some degree, and it is clear from the book that his madness is a direct result of living in an intolerant society which tries to take away his history, identity, cultural roots and his very humanity at every turn. It should come as no shock that in his suffering and alienation and madness, he turns to such internal and external violence in response to the society which would wipe out every sign that he ever existed. He is reacting with violence and intolerance and hatred to the violent and intolerant and hateful society which created him.

John's response originally was to try to fit into the white world. He tried to rub off the color of his skin when he was younger, after having seen his adoptive white parents undressed (Alexie 306). And when he is older he tries to fit in on the job. The foreman is afraid of John and imagines complaining to somebody, but sees how absurd it would be. He says:

You see, . . . we've got this Indian guy who doesn't talk and eats his lunch alone. He doesn't go for beers after work. He also arrives ...

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Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:11, November 29, 2021, from